The LA Chargers are hoping that 2022 free agent prize J.C. Jackson will return to elite status after a ruptured patellar tendon ended his season after five games. Even before the injury, Jackson looked like a shell of the lockdown No. 1 corner he was for the Patriots the previous two seasons.
While the Chargers refuse to give a timetable for Jackson's return, he was on the practice field during OTAs doing individual drills. The team even shared a video to social media of Jackson running forward and backward and changing directions without any limitations.
While a return for training camp remains up in the air, Jackson's mobility lends credence to the speculation that he'll be out there in Week 1.
Jackson's return would be a huge boost for Brandon Staley's defense, but the cornerback room has questions behind him. A Bryce Callahan reunion can't be ruled out, but it's a little head-scratching it hasn't happened yet.
If the Callahan ship has sailed, it might behoove the Bolts to consider signing one of Staley's former stars with the Rams: Troy Hill.
The Chargers should sign free agent cornerback Troy Hill
Michael Davis and Asante Samuel Jr. can fill the void in the meantime until Jackson returns, but the latter is overmatched against taller receivers and his struggles defending the run are well-documented.
There's also Ja'Sir Taylor, who's starred at OTAs and showed enough last year to warrant consideration for the starting nickel role.
Unless the Chargers are ready to entrust 2022 seventh-round pick Deane Leonard with a bigger role, they should peruse the market for more experience. With over $12 million in available cap space, it's not like they don't have the necessary resources.
Hill struggled in coverage last season, but he has a long track record of providing stability to a secondary and even being a difference-maker. A former undrafted free agent in 2015, Hill enjoyed perhaps his best season in 2020 when Staley served as the Rams' defensive coordinator.
That season, Hill allowed a 74.3 passer rating to opposing QBs, a 67.0% completion rate and just a 74.3 passer rating to opposing QBs, per PFF.
While 2022 was considered a down year in coverage for Hill's standards, he still packed a punch against the run, earning a 77.4 run-defense grade. He also logged 77 snaps in the box, which is a testament to his ability to wear multiple hats in a defense. Further, he's capable of playing outside or in the slot, logging 452 snaps and 172 snaps at each position, respectively.
Hill isn't a must-get by any stretch of the imagination, but the Chargers could use another corner behind the aforementioned foursome and Hill's ties to Brandon Staley could make it a worthwhile move.